“I Still Want to Have a Family. It’s Just Going to Look Different.” Coming Out In A Catholic Family.

by Carlo Velayo

I’m Carlo and I’m from Sydney, Australia. It took me 25 years to come out to my best friend, to my family, and a large part of that delay is because of my Catholic faith, my Catholic upbringing. Growing up there was definitely this image of the perfect family, the holy family, with a father, a mother, and a child. So growing up, that’s what I aspired to having in the future. Just before my 26th birthday, I had this urge to come out to my parents. So I had told my best friend, I had started telling friends and colleagues about my sexuality, my truth, but I knew that I hadn’t really come out yet until I told my parents. So I drove up from Canberra to Sydney, and it was a Saturday afternoon, they were just about to go to mass to a Catholic church down the road. And they invited me to come along with them and I knew that this wasn’t the ideal situation to tell them, we’re going to a Catholic mass or service but I just needed to tell them otherwise I wouldn’t tell them this weekend. So Dad was driving, Mom was in the passenger seat, I was in the back seat, and in the best Tagalog that I knew, I said to them, “Mom, Dad, I’m attracted to men.” And there was a bit of silence for a moment but Dad was the first person to chime up and say, “Carlo, as long as you’re happy, we’re happy.” And Mom soon thereafter said, “you can’t change who you are, this is you and we want you to be you.” So I was actually surprised they didn’t have any more questions and because it was a very short car trip to the church, we actually got out of the car and we went to mass. The following evening there was a power outage in Sydney and we were sitting in the lounge room, candles around the room to give some light, and I said to Mom and Dad, “Thank you for being so accepting and so open about my truth, I really appreciate that. But I also want to make sure you understand what it means, what I’ve told you. And yes I know that the Catholic church says you can be gay, but you have to be celibate. What I want to explain to you is that, yes, I’m gay and I want to continue to practice my Catholic faith but I don’t necessarily just want to be celibate. I want to have a partner, I want to have a family.” And I think that was a little more difficult for them to understand, I think they needed to wrap their brains around it, but I think for me it was important for me to explain that to them. Two weeks later I was back in Sydney and I was making some cake decorations with my aunt and my mom and some other relatives, and my auntie said to me, “Oh, maybe you can make some of these pink roses, icing, cake decorations of roses for your girlfriend.” I said, “Well, that will never happy because I’m actually gay.” And my aunt was just silent and then she started crying. She started sobbing. I actually had to invite her into their living room, I sat her down, we sat on the couch and she was still crying, she could not stop crying. And then after about 3 or 4 minutes she started calming down, stopped crying and I asked her, “Are you okay, what’s wrong? Why are you so emotional?” And she said to me, “Carlo, I just have to grieve the loss of this image I built up for you, of having a wife and having children.” I said to her, “I get that but I want to make sure that you understand, I still want that, I still want to have a family. But it’s just going to look different. It’s going to be with a man instead of a woman.” And she said, “I understand that and I’m actually very grateful that you’ve told me this because now we can have a more open, a deeper relationship because there’s no longer this facade.” So what I’ve learned is that I can be gay and I can be Catholic and the two can actually build on each other and strengthen both parts of my identity. My relationship with God is between just the two of us. It shouldn’t be formed by what the Catholic church is saying or even what my parents say, that that relationship that I have with God is a very personal, a very nuanced relationship. And it doesn’t have to follow any rules or teachings, it can just be what I want it to be.

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